TAU hosted its fourth international Innovation Conference on June 6-8, attracting 4,000 delegates from Israel and abroad. Ranging from seasoned experts to first-time entrepreneurs, they networked and shared knowledge on the gamut of issues facing start-ups.
The conference's centerpiece was the Startup Challenge, a competition offering a Silicon Valley Roadshow and $24,000 worth of (Internet) cloud space to the most promising initiative and similar awards to the four runners-up. This year's three top winners were all women: Lital Leshem of Reporty, Adi Shemesh of Trensh and Katya Goldstein of Evolita.
Reporty is a technology that allows people to call emergency services via live audio and video broadcasts, while also providing their precise location.
The terror attack that took place [on June 8] in Tel Aviv, is evidence of the complex reality in which the citizens of Israel live. Reporty winning the competition…demonstrates the importance of this type of service," said Leshem. "Israel's citizens want to feel safe and secure during routine and emergency times, and we are here to fill this need." Reporty is currently in pilot phase in Israel.
Trench is a fashion platform that enables users to buy clothes without spending real money. It does this by building sharing economies with digital currency and a geographically based app.
Evolita is building affordable and accessible business data and analysis services to the marketing and business development, strategy and innovation, and investment and consulting sectors.
"Every year, the conference grows," said Elena Donets, CEO of StarTAU, TAU’s Entrepreneurship Center and the conference organizer together with RAMOT, the university's technology transfer arm. A highlight of this year's conference, she said, was the participation of some 150 Israeli professional community leaders in hosting and facilitating the events. This involvement helped further the conference's goal of enabling business ties between entrepreneurs and relevant bodies in the global market, Donets said.
The Conference kicked off with a networking evening at the beachfront Hilton Hotel.
The second day was dedicated to practical seminars and "Tech Talks" off-campus. The sessions were interactive and ranged from fundraising to PR to finding business opportunities in India. Given that many of the participants were in the midst of launching their own start-ups, audiences were rapt.
For Lulu Dubin, a first-time entrepreneur, the TAU Innovation Conference was a much-needed opportunity to learn from experienced professionals.
"Often, as an entrepreneur, you make a lot of mistakes and don't ask the right questions. When you have the chance to work with a mentor, you make fewer mistakes," said Dubin, the CEO and Co-founder of Talklet, a wearable app that will foster parent-child communication and early childhood brain development. "They help you move forward, help you understand what the best options are for you." After participating in several sessions at the TAU Innovation Conference, Dubin concluded that "in Israel, society as a whole is more willing to help entrepreneurs succeed."
Israel's reputation as an innovation hothouse led Dubin's co-founder, a Brazilian entrepreneur, to seek partnerships and develop his product in Israel.
The conference's third day was dedicated to the Startup Challenge as well as Startup Avenue, a bustling exhibition where participants displayed their technologies.